GAM Levi locked in Nocturne jungle

Eight surprise champion picks that shaped Worlds’ group stage

The 2017 League of Legends World Championship continues into the knockout stage, yet there is so much to unpack regarding the group stage. The bottom two teams from each group have gone home defeated, and they will mentally replay every win and loss to make sense of it all. They will review their drafts, early game strategies, mid-game decisions and late-game execution.

Adaptation was a major theme of this year’s group stage. Each week, the teams who brought key innovations onto the stage defined the final standings. Pocket picks, surprise lock-ins and fulfilling match-up win conditions decided matches, which shaped teams’ chances to advance. Here are eight pivotal champion picks that shaped the first wave of 2017 Worlds.

GAM Levi Nocturne – Day 1 v. FNC

GAM Levi locked in Nocturne jungle at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

After the first few matches included drafts that mostly went by the book, Gigabyte Marines decided to lock in Nocturne for Levi against Fnatic. This decision completely changed the tone of the 2017 Worlds stage. The surprise draft reminded audiences around the world why they fell in love with Gigabyte Marines at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Nocturne is such a feast or famine option that he is hardly ever played professionally. However, Gigabyte Marines set up Levi to reach level six in five minutes, and he carried them to a 24-minute victory. 

This game was significant for so many reasons. Firstly, it demonstrated that top teams from minor regions are completely capable of putting up a fight on the international stage. Other members of Group B cannot underestimate Gigabyte Marines. Secondly, this quick win gave Gigabyte Marines the confidence to continue bringing out “never before seen” drafts and strategies throughout the Group Stage. But, most importantly, the loss definitely shook Fnatic’s mentality for their matches in week one. Gigabyte Marines, and their successful Nocturne execution, set up Fnatic to start Worlds 0-3. 

G2 Expect Trundle – Day 3 v. FB

With Cho’Gath locked in for 1907 Fenerbahce’s Thaldrin, and Gnar and Shen banned away, G2 locked in the Trundle for Expect. This match was the first Trundle on the 2017 Worlds stage. With a little help from Perkz to secure First Blood, Expect pushed down first turret and helped Trick acquire Rift Herald. From there, he transitioned into split-pushing to win one-versus-one against Thaldrin.

While Expect was not the only major factor in G2’s day three victory, his pressure did result in G2’s first win after losing to Samsung Galaxy on day one. His Trundle game also set the precedent for Alphari, CuVee and Huni to gain wins with Troll King during group stage. Expect put Trundle on the board, forcing teams to consider him in future drafts, especially against super-tank top laners.

G2 Expect locked in Trundle top at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

C9 Contractz Graves – Day 3 v. EDG

As one of the only junglers prioritizing high damage over tankiness and crowd control, Contractz surprised with a Graves lock-in on day three. Touted as a counter-pick to Jarvan IV, Graves still maintains fast camp clears and invasion pressure. The pick worked out similarly to Contractz’ Ezreal jungle. He farmed monsters rapidly, and he made sure to visit lanes to help poke out EDG’s laners.

More importantly, Cloud9 won their first game against China’s first seed. The same pick did not work out against EDG on day eight, but the first win basically prevented a tie-breaker match between the two teams for second seed in Group A. Even though no other players tried out Graves on stage, Contractz’ week one success with the pick turned out to be a saving grace for Cloud9’s advancement to quarterfinals.

LZ Khan Nasus – Day 4 v. FNC

What was not to love about this game? The top lane Nasus generated so much hype by itself, disregarding any memes about “dog champs.” Khan had already shown prominence on Lethality Jarvan IV, so everyone expected his Nasus to be nasty. Longzhu realized that Fnatic tends to abandon sOAZ in the top lane, so this champion would hard counter that choice. 

LZ Khan locked in Nasus at Worlds

Screenshot of LoL Esports broadcast

Khan did not disappoint. Longzhu destroyed Fnatic’s nexus in 20:52, the shortest match in the group stage. This victory solidified Longzhu at the top of Group B with a 3-0 record, and Fnatic at the bottom with an 0-3. Almost all of the drama of Group B’s week two would have been nonexistent without this stomp. The Nasus pick, in particular, reinforced the possibility of surprise picks on the international stage.

FNC Caps Malzahar – Day 5 v. IMT

Week two saw Fnatic on a momentous upswing. They won their second matches against Immortals and Gigabyte Marines, while Longzhu remained undefeated. The games played out to create a tie-breaker situation between Immortals and Fnatic, which is when Caps pulled out the first Malzahar of Worlds.

Malzahar is supposed to be a counter-pick to Ryze, which allowed Caps to neutralize Pobelter. The mid lane interactions allowed Fnatic’s other members to have the space necessary to gain advantages and push through neutral objectives. With this victory, Fnatic sent Immortals back to North America, and continued into their tie-breaker against Gigabyte Marines to finalize Group B’s standings.

MSF IgNar Thresh – Day 7 v. FW

MSF Ignar locked in Thresh at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This match-up against Flash Wolves was a breakout game for IgNar and Misfits. Their Thresh lock-in presented one of the first non-Ardent Censer supports at Worlds. It also proved that teams can opt for play-making champions in the bottom lane and find success. IgNar finished the game with a 0-0-10 scoreline, making the most of his roams and picks.

While Flash Wolves were not their main competition, Misfits started day seven with momentum. The unpredictability of IgNar’s champion pool allowed them to have flexible drafts, and to know that any member of their team is capable of carrying. Misfits cemented Flash Wolves’ fate in the group stage, since they fell 0-4 with this loss.

WE Mystic Caitlyn – Day 7 v. TSM

One of the most innovative strategies of the group stage, Mystic decided to race the Ardent Censer support build by drafting Caitlyn. Her combination of early poke damage, wave clear, and sieging allows Caitlyn to push in late-scaling AD carries such as Doublelift’s Twitch. Team WE executed the strategy perfectly, pushing through the game in just over 24 minutes. Mystic himself finished with a 10.0 KDA.

This game marked the turning point for TSM in Group D. WE pulled ahead to match Misfits 3-1, while TSM dropped below them at 2-2. This same strategy won WE their second match against Flash Wolves to finish at the top of the group. From a larger scope, this match also introduced another strategy to counter hyper-carries with enchanter supports. Caitlyn would go on to finish the group stage 4-0, including wins from EDG and Cloud9 on the final day.

FW MMD Renekton – Day 7 v. TSM

FW MMD locked in Renekton at Worlds

Screenshot of LoL Esports broadcast

Calling Renekton a “surprise pick” is a bit of a stretch. He is a staple lane bully champion for top laners. However, the 2017 Worlds meta has not seen him played much. Flash Wolves drafted Renekton for MMD to completely neutralize Hauntzer. Karsa and MMD killed Hauntzer twice within the first five minutes, which provided MMD with so much pressure that he zoned Hauntzer off of farm. MMD gained a 2,000 gold lead by 11 minutes, which transitioned into first turret, Rift Herald and complete dominance by the Flash Wolves.

The first seed LMS team had nothing to lose, seeing as they were already guaranteed to be eliminated. They took their only win off of TSM in this match, which forced the tie-breaker with Misfits to finish group stage. This single win, stemming from this single champion match-up, was the catalyst for Misfits to secure second seed in Group D. If TSM had won this game, then they would have graduated into quarterfinals instead of Misfits.

From the first day of group stage to the last, we have seen individual champion selections have huge impacts. Countering the meta, or countering specific team playstyles, these surprise performances influenced the standings. They allowed and denied entry into the knockout stage. Teams, players and the tournament itself are creating highlights, and even legacies to be remembered for World Championships to come.


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Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Worlds’ OP five after week two

The Group Stage of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship has finished, and the quarterfinals are set. The second week was a roller-coaster, as many teams who struggled in week one made a come-back in week two. Groups B and D had massive shake-ups, while groups A and C had major upsets without affecting the standings.

Just like in the first week, we saw certain players shine. We saw new champions drafted, updated item builds, and adapted strategies. Other players faltered, whether on their own or as part of deeper team-wide issues. Recency bias will paint over their week one performances, and they will be remembered for how they fell short.

Rather than dwell on missed opportunities, it is important to lift up those players who executed. These are the five most fearsome from the second week of Group Stage.

Top: ssg Cuvee

SSG's Cuvee was the most OP top laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Almost every top laner had major failures this week. In SKT’s loss to AHQ, Huni sacrificed four of their 12 deaths. Khan did not play all three games, and Rascal only played one (not really a failure, but it’s more difficult to judge against players who had 3-4 games). Cloud9’s Impact and TSM’s Hauntzer looked much less coordinated than last week.

However, Samsung’s CuVee actually looked strong in all three of his games. He averaged ahead in gold (+235), CS (+8), and XP (+237) at 15 minutes. SSG’s top laner was the only player with a lead in their game versus RNG. His Cho’Gath found 1907 Fenerbahce’s AD carry multiple times, and helped enable Samsung to deny G2 any neutral objectives.

The top lane pool in Group C (Letme, Expect and Thaldrin) is not the most intimidating, but members of Groups A, B and D all played inconsistently. WE’s 957 had strong showings, but he averaged behind in laning phase, despite having advantageous match-ups. One could also argue that he contributed less to their victories than CuVee did to Samsung’s.

Jungle: EDG Clearlove

EDG's Clearlove was the most OP jungler in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Say what you will about week one EDG, but they played their hearts out this week. Clearlove got first blood in two of three games. He secured the Rift Herald, multiple dragons and first Baron in all three games. While he averaged behind in XP (-323) and CS (-12), Clearlove averaged ahead in gold (+280) at 15 minutes. His 6.0 day eight KDA was the highest in Group A.

EDG’s jungler is a big reason why they accrued over 3,000 gold leads by twenty minutes in all three games this week. Clearlove made sure to give advantages to his carries, particularly Scout and iBoy. His Jarvan IV ultimates were key to locking down Sneaky and AN’s Kog’Maws.

Maxlore did provide spectacular early game pressure for Misfits, but they lost crucial Barons in three of their four games this week. Mlxg was stifled in his Rek’Sai game against G2. WE’s Condi had great performances this week, and he may even be more worthy than Clearlove. Team WE’s lanes seemed less dependent on Condi’s early influence, because they drafted advantageous match-ups more often.

Mid: WE Xiye

WE's Xiye was the most OP mid laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

It was difficult to choose the most OP mid laner this week. Arguments could be made for Bdd again, Xiaohu, Xiye, or even Perkz, Caps, Faker or Scout. However, WE’s Xiye seems like the best choice. Not only did he average more kills (4.0) and assists (5.7) per game than any other mid laner in his group, but keep in mind he is in Group D. He clearly out-performed Bjergsen, Maple and PowerOfEvil, which cannot necessarily be said about mids in any other group.

Part of the credit should certainly go to his jungler, Condi, but Xiye knew what to do with his leads once he had them. His Jayce was pivotal in WE’s siege composition versus TSM. Xiye used Corki to roam and dish damage against Flash Wolves. Finally, he had multiple solo kills on PowerOfEvil, helping dismantle Misfits’ lead.

LZ’s Bdd was really the only other mid laner as dominant. He continued to use roaming zone mages to spread his leads and out-roam his opponents. This is a valid strategy. However, it just does not feel as powerful as Xiye’s performance this week. Xiye played three different champions with slightly different play styles. The pressure was higher on Xiye to shut down main components of TSM, MSF and FW for their victories, while Longzhu’s group has those pressure points more on bottom lane and jungle.

ADC: LZ Pray

LZ's Pray was the most OP AD Carry in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mystic, iBoy, Bang, Uzi, Zven, Rekkles… so many great AD carries are at this championship. But in week two of the Group Stage, Longzhu’s PraY reigned supreme. He carried LZ to another 3-0 week on Kog’Maw and Varus. PraY’s 6.3 kills per game topped all players in Group B, and his 8.7 assists were highest among Group B’s AD carries. He also put up 991 damage per minute, 39.6 percent of LZ’s total.

PraY and GorillA made Immortals, Fnatic and Gigabyte Marines’ bottom lanes pale in comparison. While their early games have not necessarily been oppressive, their late-game fighting is clean. In all three of LZ’s games, PraY came up massive in teamfights just past 30 minutes and they closed. While last week’s wins seemed much more dependent on Khan and Bdd, this week PraY drove them home.

Bang and iBoy had high highs on day eight, but they both had duds, too. Bang finished the AHQ loss 0-1-0 over 37 minutes. IBoy finished the SKT loss 1-3-1 over 38 minutes, despite having a clear early lead. These losses dilute their gameplay in victory. Mystic had a similar situation in Group D, where his two Caitlyn games were extremely oppressive, yet he had two early laning deaths against Misfits from lack of respect. Uzi was outplayed by G2’s Zven in Group C, as well.

Support: SSG Corejj

SSG's CoreJJ was the most OP support in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

As mentioned last week, the support role is currently difficult to judge between players. All of the supports at this year’s Worlds are exceptional. With the meta revolving around Ardent Censer and enchanter champions, Janna and Lulu have dominated the draft. Both have a 92% presence in the draft thus far. Since they focus almost exclusively on the success of their AD carries, if their teammates lose, then they lose.

That being said, Samsung’s CoreJJ had a fantastic week. Even in the loss to RNG, CoreJJ finished with a positive KDA. SSG’s marksman, Ruler, could not put up the carry performances he has shown without CoreJJ’s constant buffs. He came out of day six with a 28.0 overall KDA, averaging 0.3 deaths and 8.0 assists per game.

EDG’s Meiko and Misfits’ IgNar also stood out this week. The only factor preventing Meiko from being in the OP five was the bottom lane competition in his group.  Uzi-Ming, Zven-Mithy and Padden-Japone came out more consistently strong this week than Bang-Wolf, Sneaky-Smoothie and AN-Albis. While IgNar was ambitious to draft Blitzcrank, Taric and Thresh this week, he did not play as crisp as possible. The Blitzcrank ultimately lost in the late game to TSM.


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Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Worlds matchups to look out for

The 2017 League of Legends World Championships hype will continue this weekend with the group stages beginning. The play-in stage has concluded and we now have the four completed groups. The draw was just about as even as possible. Each group has top-tier players from their region looking to prove themselves on the Worlds stage. Let’s take a look:

Group A: MID laners

Photo by: Riot Esports

Who could forget Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s tweet at last years World Championship when Cloud 9 got drawn into SKT’s group? Many will remember how last years matchup went. SKT and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok dismantled Cloud 9 and dominated them in the two games they faced each other during the group stage. It felt like Jensen never stood a chance as SKT lived in the mid lane setting him farther behind. He finished with two kills and eight deaths in the two games they faced off.

Jensen gets his shot at redemption this year. He’ll be looking to show that he’s grown a lot from last year as he showed his best year in the NA LCS so far. Faker will be looking to show Jensen that he’s still the best player in the World.

From China’s EDG you have Lee “Scout” Ye-chan, who is definitely no slouch. Scout originated as a sub for SKT in 2015 before coming to China to become one of the region’s best mid laners. Scout has shown prowess on very aggressive picks and will need a good performance against the other mid laners in this group.

From the LMS, we have AHQ’s Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei and fan favorite Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei. Westdoor has been a longtime player of AHQ, but mechanically had many flaws during his lane phase that would set AHQ behind. Chawy hopes that he can overtake Westdoor as the priority mid for AHQ. We didn’t get to see too much of him at last years Worlds so his first game will be huge.

Group B: Top Laners

Photo By: Riot Esports

Group B will have some of the most fun and legendary top laners to date. From North America’s Immortals you have the original legend from Korea in Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. After years of jumping from China and Korea, he finally made his way back to the World Stage with this Immortals team.

For EU’s Fnatic you have none other than Paul “sOAZ” Boyer who has become a staple for big performances and escapes on the Worlds stage. There’s just something about Worlds that gives him a “buff” that makes him play like a God no matter how he performed during the regular season.

From Longzhu Gaming you have the new up and coming top lane God in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. Khan has become famous for his legendary Jayce that draws bans in every game. If one team leaves it up against them, he’s bound to make them regret it.

Gigabyte Marines’ Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran will have his work cut out for him. He played support for the team at MSI before switching to the top lane for the Summer. If Gigabyte Marines stand any chance he’ll need to hold his own against these big names in the top lane.

Group C: ADC’s

Photo by: Riot Esports

In Group C we look to the opposite side of the map from Group B. We have some legendary bot lane talents from each team. In Royal Never Give Up, long time ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao has shown up huge in his past World Championships. He’s been to two World Finals and broke the heart of many NA fans when his phenomenal Ezreal play helped eliminate TSM from Group D last year. Similar to Soaz, Uzi always shows up during Worlds to make huge plays for his team.

From EU, we have G2’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen who has been rock solid, taking the crown of best ADC in Europe. G2 likes to play around Zven giving him hyper carries such as Kog’maw and Tristana. He didn’t have the best Worlds performance last year so this will be his chance to show he’s still one of the best in the world.

From Korea, we have Samsung Galaxy’s Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. Ruler left to China after achieving rank one on the solo queue ladder in Korea. He comes in as one of the best ADC’s in Korea, and had a great showing at last year’s Worlds. His positioning in the finals against eventual champion SKT contributed to their downfall, so he’ll be looking to prove himself once again.

From 1907 Fehnerbace we have Ege “padden” Acar Koparal who got one of the few pentakills during the play-in stage. Padden’s Tristana and Kog’maw paid huge dividends for the team upsetting their way through the play-in stage. Against tougher competition this round, we’ll need to see if he can build up from the play-in stages.

Group D: Mid-Jungle DUos

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lastly, Group D have some of the best mid-jungle duos of the tournament. For North America, you have fan favorite TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Bjergsen will be looking to add to his legacy as best Western player, while Svenskeren will look to build off his great Worlds performance last year. Bjergsen has yet to go far in a World championship, which hinders his legacy. Group D is the easiest group they’ve gotten by far so they’ll need to prove that they can get first.

From LMS’ Flash Wolves we have the iconic Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. Maple has fallen off from his previous form which we’ve been used to seeing. Karsa has had to carry much of the load for the team going forward. Him and Svenskeren have very similar aggressive jungle styles that will be interesting to see when they face off.

EU first timers will sport none other than Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. Maxlore came into Summer being seen as a better fit stylistically for the team. He often looks to camp around the mid lane to get PoE ahead and snowball.

Hometown heroes, WE have stars  Su “Xiye” Han-Wei and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Xiye and Condi showed good performances during the play-in stage on a variety of champions. Condi always seemed in control despite WE falling behind in the early game. These teams won’t be as forgiving if they fall behind so they’ll need to step up their game.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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KT Rolster could be Korea's fourth seed at Worlds

The LCK should send four teams to Worlds

For the last few years, fans and analysts have looked to the League of Legends World Championship to select the world’s greatest team. Organizations from all over the world descend on a location to duke it out and shoot for the top. Representatives from North America, Europe, China, Taiwan, Korea and more get drafted into four groups based on their year-long performance within their regions, and from there they scrap for two of the four slots into quarterfinals.

This system seems fair enough, but there has been an interesting trend since 2013. The LCK representatives continue to push towards the top of the tournament. In Season Three, Korean teams finished first, third-fourth, and ninth-tenth. Season Four was first, third-fourth, and fifth-eighth. They nabbed first, second, and fifth-eighth in 2015, and then first, second, third-fourth last year. In 2017 they will be looking to continue this trend.

Such consistently high placings begs the question: when will LCK get a fourth competitor at Worlds? Looking at the competition this year, Longzhu Gaming, SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy should theoretically remain a cut above. The LCK has been touted as a much more competitive league than other regions in the world, yet they get allotted the same number of Worlds seeds as China, Europe and North America. It is worth questioning the reasoning of this choice.

strength of korea’s fourth seed

KOO Tigers knocked out KT Rolster at 2015 Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hypothetically, KT Rolster would be Korea’s fourth seed representative. No one would argue that they are unfit for the world stage. KT is made up of Smeb, Score, Pawn, Deft and Mata–world-class players by all measures. This is the squad that tied Longzhu for first place in the Summer Split regular season. KT only lost 2-3 to SKT in the playoffs to miss finals, then lost 0-3 to Samsung to miss Worlds.

What is the justification for KT to stay at home, while wildcard teams and other regions’ third seeds get to the Group Stage through play-ins? Sure, some fans may be upset about equal representation, or how Worlds would become LCK playoffs 2.0, but what about competitive integrity? KT Rolster would most likely make a deep run in the World Championship, but they are denied that opportunity because they play in a region that has too much talent.

Of course, there will be someone to point out the obvious slippery slope. Why stop at four? Why not five or six or seven Korean teams? Next, there will be four different play-in-type stages to Worlds, and it will last eight weeks, and people are not going to tune in for an eight-week-long tournament. This is a valid point.

Fairness of the Group Stage

2017 World Championships groups

Image from LoLesports.com

Four Korean teams feels right because there are four groups in the main event of Worlds. Each year teams from other regions cross their fingers and hope they are drawn into the group without an LCK seed. That gives them the highest probability to make it out of their group, which means a higher chance to win the entire tournament. Introducing a fourth LCK team would remove that hope.

Picture a World tournament where Longzhu heads Group A, SKT in Group B, Samsung in Group C and KT in Group D. Every other team in the tournament would be guaranteed to face one from Korea. There may still be “groups of death,” but there would no longer be a safe haven-type group.

Bringing in a fourth team would also be a proper test for other regions at Worlds. If a TSM or G2 or Flash Wolves truly wants to feel accomplished making it out of their group, then they should be facing a Longzhu, an SKT or a Samsung. Just look at H2K last year. Many would argue that they only made into the semifinals because they topped the only group without a Korean roster, then faced the wildcard team in quarterfinals, and when they faced Samsung in semifinals they lost 3-0.

Competitive Integrity

H2K did not face an LCK team until semifinals last year

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

On that same note, if TSM tops this year’s Group D, they would face the second place from another group. For example, they could have to play Fnatic, Immortals or Gigabyte Marines in the quarterfinals. If TSM then made it to semifinals and lost to SKT or Longzhu, would they feel like they earned their way, knowing that other teams were knocked out earlier by Korean teams? It is not surprising that analysts were worried for North America’s chances going into the group draw but quickly became optimistic once TSM was placed in a group without an LCK seed.

The logistics of bringing in a fourth team from Korea would be relatively straight-forward. Each group is headed by the top four teams from LCK: Summer Split champion in Group A, second-most championship points in Group B, third most in Group C and a regional qualifier for Group D. From there, the first seeds of Europe, China, North America, and Taiwan would divide into the four groups. The second seeds would follow, and then there would be a play-in for the final four spots. Riot would need to revoke the wildcard slot promised from the Mid-Season Invitational, and include them in the play-in for their chance to the Group Stage.

Fleshing out this hypothetical, we could have groups that look like this:

A–Longzhu, Flash Wolves, RNG, Cloud9

B–SKT T1, TSM, Misfits, Team WE

C–Samsung, G2, Immortals, Gigabyte Marines

D–KT Rolster, Edward Gaming, AHQ, Fnatic

These seem a lot more balanced than the current groups. There are still ways to make them less fair, such as grouping KT, Flash Wolves, Misfits and Gigabyte Marines, while Longzhu, G2, RNG and Cloud9 faced off. However, no team would be able to make it into the semifinals of Worlds without beating a member of the LCK. This setup would also present Korea with the opportunity to truly prove its prowess, because if they could potentially secure all top four spots in the World.

Conclusion

The LCK has proven itself over several years of international and domestic competition. This year Riot allowed them instant access to the Group Stage without a play-in, but that is not enough. The World Championship should feature four teams from the LCK. Critics may point to the slippery slope “why stop at four Korean teams? Why not five, six, or seven?” but settling on four seems natural, given there are four groups in the Group Stage.

Each of the four groups would be assigned one Korean team, ensuring more fairness in the draw. It would also strengthen the competitive integrity of Worlds. KT Rolster would be a prime candidate to compete in this year’s World Championship when compared to other competitors.

It would be impossible for a team to reach the semifinals of the tournament without winning against an LCK representative. Any true professional League team should want to leave a competition knowing that it did the best it could. They would not want to think it was the luck of the draw. Adding in a fourth Korean seed would make that a reality.


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Introducing Group A of Worlds play-in: Team WE, Gambit and Lyon Gaming

With the addition of a play-in stage to the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, audiences will see several new faces on the international stage. To start things off, 12 third seed and wildcard teams have been divided into four groups of three. Each group of three will play a double round robin, and the two with the best record will move to a second phase. First place of each group will play a random second place in phase two of the play-in. The winners of these best-of-fives qualify for the larger Group Stage with the other top teams.

The LPL’s Team WE, LCL’s Gambit and LLN’s Lyon Gaming were drawn into Group A of the play-in. These three teams come from regions with widely differing teams and metas. The clashing of these differences is one of the many reasons Worlds is always exciting to watch. Here are summaries of the three competitors.

Team WE (LPL Third Seed)

WE 957 will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Top: 957 Jungle: Condi Mid: Xiye Bot: Mystic Support: Ben

2017 Spring Split achievements: Tied 1st Group B Spring regular, 1st Spring playoffs, 3rd/4th MSI

2017 Summer Split achievements: Tied 1st Group A Summer regular, 4th Summer playoffs, Rift Rivals winners

Team WE are one of the more aggressive teams in China. Just look at some of the players’ pocket picks in the regular season Summer Split. Kled for 957. Rengar for Condi. Xiye’s most played champion was Leblanc, and he has not played Orianna since spring. Mystic and Ben’s highest pick rates are for Xayah and Rakan. These guys play fast and hard.

WE may be the LPL’s third seed, but this squad tied China’s first seed, Edward Gaming, in the 2017 regular seasons of Spring and Summer Split. WE had a winning record against Royal Never Give Up in spring, and against EDG in summer. They traded wins with SK Telecom T1 and Flash Wolves at Rift Rivals, and also finished the Mid-Season Invitational group stage ahead of G2, Flash Wolves, TSM and Gigabyte Marines.

WE Xiye will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Essentially a shoe-in for the group stage of Worlds, WE will look to exhibit dominance in the play-in. This is not the place to disrespect opponents. WE should view this first step as a mental warm-up for the rest of the tournament. They need to take down their opponents in the same way they would take down the best in the LPL.

WE knows it deserves a spot in the group stage. Now is their time to prove it. If they were somehow unable to push out of the play-in stage, it would be an unacceptable disappointment. Assuming WE finish first in their group, they will have to face a second seed from another play-in group to make it into the next stage. This would most likely be Gambit, Team One, Young Generation or 1907 Fenerbahce.

In the second phase of play-in, all of these teams would be comfortable on stage, and WE should show up in a best-of-five. Cheesy best-of-one wildcard strategies cannot get teams through this section of competition. WE can adapt to their opponent, shift draft advantages between their players, and ultimately succeed. Any of their players can carry in any given game, unlike many of the wildcard teams. WE needs to use that to their advantage.

Gambit (LCL First Seed)

Gambit will play in Group A

Image from EsportsRanks.com

Top: PvPStejos Jungle: Diamondprox Mid: Kira Bot: Blasting Support: Edward

2017 Spring Split achievements: 6th Spring regular

2017 Summer Split achievements: 1st Summer regular, 1st Summer playoffs

League of Legends fans who watched the 2016 World Championships will remember the LCL’s representative last year: Albus Nox Luna. The Russians surprised the world by pushing out of their group into the quarterfinals, finishing fifth-eighth. In the 2017 pre-season, their slot was acquired by M19, who went on to finish third-fourth in the 2017 Spring Split playoffs.

Between spring and summer, though, mid laner Kira and jungler PvPStejos (who moved to top lane) were signed to Gambit. The organization also brought on Blasting from Virtus.pro and Edward from Vega Squadron, rebuilding the roster around veteran jungler Diamondprox.

Kira and PvPStejos will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This line-up performed much better during the Summer Split, following Gambit’s sixth place finish in the Spring Split. They finished the summer regular season with a 13-1 record, met M19 in the playoff finals, and edged them out 3-2 to auto-qualify to Worlds this year. Russia is truly sending her best team to the international stage.

The CIS representatives excel at getting an early lead, averaging 1,258 gold ahead at 15 minutes. This does not necessarily always turn into the first turret (57.1 percent) or dragon control (58 percent), but they keep their grip on Baron (85.7 percent control). This major objective will come up huge at Worlds, and Gambit should replicate this strategy as best they can.

Gambit will look to build off of ANX’s success last year, but they have the additional play-in stage to hurdle. Grouping with Team WE all but ensures Gambit’s second place seeding for phase two, so they will ultimately have to beat one of the top seeds from the play-in to advance. If any wildcard team is up for the challenge, it is Gambit.

Lyon Gaming (LLN First Seed)

Lyon WhiteLotus will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Top: Jirall Jungle: Oddie Mid: Seiya Bot: WhiteLotus Support: Genthix

2017 Spring Split achievements: 1st Spring regular, 1st Spring playoffs, 8th-9th MSI

2017 Summer Split achievements: 1st Summer regular, 1st Summer playoffs, 3rd Rift Rivals

Lyon Gaming has one of the most dominant regional histories in professional League of Legends. Their victory this summer marks eight splits won since 2013. These same five players have been on Lyon for the entirety of 2017. They have only dropped five games total within the LLN this whole year.

However, regional perfection does not necessarily translate to the big stage. At last year’s International Wildcard Qualifier, Lyon Gaming finished the first phase at the top of the standings with a 6-1 record. However, they were knocked out by Albus Nox Luna by losing 2-3 in phase two. In 2015, the LLN was not even represented at the International Wildcard Qualifier, because Lyon Gaming lost to Kaos Latin Gamers in the Latin America Cup grand final.

It is unfortunate that Lyon got drafted into Group A with, arguably, the most difficult first and second seed opponents. They will need to get creative in best-of-ones to take down Team WE and Gambit. The members of Lyon do seem to prioritize different champions than others in their group. Seiya frequently drafts Ahri, and WhiteLotus prefers Twitch to several other AD carries. These types of picks may allow Lyon to gain an edge if they catch WE and Gambit off guard.

Lyon Genthix will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Overall

Group A looks like a strong one. WE can take down any other team in the play-in phase. Gambit and Lyon would both be formidable opponents for first seeds in phase two. All three junglers in this group prefer to play carries, like Elise and Kayn over the current meta tanks, like Gragas and Sejuani. This batch of mid laners loves to mix up their mid lane champion selections. The supports are the only players with truly “normal” champion draft distributions.

Expect AD carries and top laners to be most targeted, as those players seem to have the most clear preferences in champion pools. WhiteLotus should not get Twitch. Jirall should not get Galio. Gambit and Lyon should ban Xayah from Mystic, while Lyon and WE should ban Varus from Blasting.

This group will most likely end up finishing in the expected order. WE should not drop many, if any, games. Gambit and Lyon will most likely take games off of each other, but the macro-play and Baron control from Gambit will most likely undo Lyon. Phase two will be the more interesting test for the Russian organization, especially considering ANX’s dream run last year. WE’s phase two should be much more straightforward. Assuming they enter the larger group stage, Team WE would draft into group B or group D. If all first seeds proceed from the play-in, then WE would auto-draft into group D.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, EsportsRanks.com

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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Worlds Group A

Worlds 2017 group A : The Clash of Titans

Introduction

Every year, as the post-seasons of the multiple leagues around the world come to a close, many fans set their eyes on Worlds and the meeting of the best of the best in the international throw down. While maybe not the exciting affair for some, the group stage draw signals the coming of Worlds in the hearts of fans and is the nostalgic feeling of ‘Worlds is around the corner’ again. The group draw is this series of events that will drastically shape which teams are slated to go forward, who has the easy group, who gets the dark horse team and who gets placed into the dreaded Group of Death™. With that each group has its own story lines that emerge, and for group A, the title I’d give it has to be the Clash of Titans.

Group A drew not only EDward Gaming (EDG), finalists for the LPL, but also Worlds’ favorite and defending champions in SKT T1. As if a more storied and titanic clash could exist, the group, for me at least, avoids the term Group of Death™ because, well, AHQ is there. With the fourth team still to be determined, we can’t comment too much there, but this group is definitely a dance of two. Will it be the resurgent LPL region’s EDG that walks away in first, or the fan favorite in SKT that manages again, even with questions hanging over their head, to prove themselves as the best in the world? Or can AHQ, against all odds, pull off a miracle and make it out of the group? Maybe the fourth team will add some unexpected spice that upsets the perfect balance of the two titans facing off for the first and second seed.

EDG 

With some of the most stylish jerseys out of the LPL, EDward Gaming hope to cement themselves as a force to be reckoned with internationally. Courtesy of EDward Gaming Facebook.

EDG come into Group A as the finalists from the scrappy LPL region, a region known for aggression that can start as early as level one. After reverse sweeping Royal Never Give Up to keep the team from winning an LPL Finals, to cement themselves, at least as far as standings go, to be the best in China, EDG come into Worlds roaring with confidence. However, EDG come into the group in an odd position; they match up against their titanic opponents, SKT, which draws concern.

Questions surround EDG’s top lane, Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao, and even Ming “Clearlove7” Kai, the on and off star jungler, abound. It’s the weaker side for the roster, that contains Lee “Scout” Ye-chan and Tian “meiko” Ye on the other half of the Rift. That being said, EDG’s draw in the group stage is a slight benefit, they face SKT, which for most would be a bad thing. But with SKT’s struggling top lane and jungler position too, EDG’s weaker sides may not be placed up against a stronger side. This means not only will EDG’s side not be exposed to a stronger lane match up, where the other team can focus and create a lead there, but also maybe EDG can manage to be the stronger side in the top half.

Their bot lane, with new kid on the block Hu “iBoy” Xianzhao, will be the true point of contest between the two titans. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan have not looked like the dominant force they once were, having been a key part in SKT’s slump mid split. That doesn’t mean that they’re not a formidable foe for a rookie ADC. EDG will have to prove themselves the stronger team even with the questions that surround them, but given their pedigree and history of strong performances, EDG look to be easy favorites for at least second place, if not first in the group.

 

The X Factor: iBoy and Scout

Rookie iBoy will have his skills and mettle tested severely against the veteran bot lane of Bang and Wolf. Can he come out ahead? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The two primary carries of EDG are the linchpin of the roster for me. Scout has to be performing at his top tier to dominate the group, and particularly to show up against old teammate Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. If it’s Scout at his ceiling, he can be the carry that EDG needs to maybe secure that first place in the group. If he’s at his floor, EDG will find trouble against possibly even AHQ.

The other big factor is iBoy, the newcomer to the LPL scene. A rookie by all accounts, he comes into Worlds only having played a total of 22 games over his entire professional career. To be thrown into a Worlds roster, let alone one that has SKT and Bang in its group, is one large task for the rookie. However, iBoy’s stats aren’t worrisome, and with the veteran lane mate of Meiko by his side, this could be a real time for the young player to shine. On the other hand, not performing will be costly for the team overall, so the pressure on iBoy is pretty damn high to at least go toe to toe with Bang.

SKT 

Ahh, SKT. They barely need introduction for fans of League of Legends, but the once completely unstoppable juggernauts have had a slightly less than glamorous recent showing. The notable slump in performance, and the question marks not only in top lane of who to start between Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Ui “Untara” Jin-Park, were concerns that many analysts brought up. Not just that, but also their jungler position too is up in the air, with Han “Peanut” Wang-hoand and Kang “Blank” Sun-gu, being the two possibilities. For many on the outside looking in, this has put the organization in a bit of a tumultuous position.

SKT’s full roster will be tested as they go into Worlds. Courtesy of SKT T1’s Facebook.

Just as with EDG though, SKT lucked out slightly by placing in a group with similar question marks in the top side of the Rift. With the “Unkillable Demon King” of League in Faker playing on the team though, and the long standing relationship between Bang and Wolf in the bot lane, it’s hard to say SKT is weak, even through their struggling top and jungle positions. Untara looks to be the more stable top lane, and Blank slots in similarly, and that almost feels the stronger formation for SKT going into Worlds. SKT can win games off simply mid and bot lane, and a tank meta supports a more supportive top and jungler position, rather than the more carry-oriented play that one might expect out of Huni or Peanut.

SKT however is still not the guaranteed top squad. With the current draw, they should be able to squash struggling AHQ Esports Club, but will be faced against an equally formidable EDG. The more aggressive nature of LPL teams may be a challenge for the defending champions, but it’s difficult to say they’ll struggle. Sure, at Rift Rivals the LPL were the ultimate winners, but LCK is never a region to bat an eyelash at. And almost most importantly, this is still a team with Faker on it, and Bang and Wolf, who bring not only their experience, but synergy. It will depend on how the squads match up, if Faker can take on his once pupil, Scout and if synergy wins out over new kid and star iBoy in the bot lane and the veteran in Meiko.

 

The X Factor: Untara/Huni and Blank/Peanut

High risk, high reward, is what has always characterized both Huni and Peanut. But can SKT take the gamble at Worlds? Courtesy of SKT T1’s Facebook.

This may come off wrong, but I’m not worried about SKT’s bottom half of the map. Faker has rarely performed negatively, and the Bang and Wolf duo seem a lot more energized after their slump. It’s the top half that’s the tricky part for SKT, and ultimately something they’ll need to address if they plan to make any real statement at Worlds.

The Huni/Untara saga continues, as Huni, previously the star diamond in the rough player, has looked considerably disappointing in recent showings (like, recent for a while…) Untara, on the other hand, may not be as flashy as Huni in his hay day or the phenom in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, but he gets the job done for SKT. If Huni can be assured to perform, he’s the obvious pick, as a strong top laner into a group with weaker top laners could be another weapon in the SKT arsenal. However, he’s a liability, and SKT may decide to go with Untara for the security in the top lane.

The next question mark is in the jungle. Peanut, the darling of the Rox Tigers that stormed onto the scene last year, is in doubt. He’s not the consistent jungler that SKT needs. Stats aren’t everything, but Blank, particularly in SKT’s playoff run, was the superior jungler in almost every category, having played six games to Peanut’s eight. That’s a decent sample size. With Blank’s solid performance, and the bigger question mark being in the top lane, SKT could very well leave Peanut out of the six man roster for Worlds in favor of a more diverse top lane option. Regardless, whoever fills in the jungle position for SKT will need to be able to get their carries in the position to succeed. 

 

AHQ

The LMS region has always been a dark horse region. Often times discounted, except when one remembers the miracle run of Tapai Assasins, or Flash Wolves’ constant ability to take down the tyrants of SKT, they tend to look to be the weakest region of the non-wild card regions. While expansion of LMS teams at Worlds has gone from two to three, a welcomed sign for the region, it’s not as bright a note given the current teams being fielded.

Can the weird… flying… unicorn… horse thing of AHQ carry the team to one of the biggest upsets of the year against the two titans in Group A? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Many pundits feel that AHQ is a fairly weak team, and particularly compared to Flash Wolves, is the easier opponent hailing from the LMS region. While an AHQ of yesterday, with a strong top lane in Chen “Ziv” Yi , might’ve posed a threat to the group of weak top side teams, it’s not as big a factor anymore. As the analysts noted, Ziv has not looked as strong as he has in the past. More importantly, the mid lane question mark for AHQ is whether to play weaker Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei who synergizes better with jungler Xue “Mountain” Zhao-Hong, or stronger mechanics but weaker synergy in Wong “Chawy” Xing. SKT and EDG are teams that play around their star mid laners, and to have a position of almost a lose-lose scenario of options to field in that vital role, it’s hard to see them coming out ahead.

While longtime Chou “AN” Chun-An and Kang “Albis” Chia-Wei in the bot lane might bring some stability to the roster, it’s difficult to say whether they’d be able to make any real threats against the likes of Bang/Wolf or even iBoy/Meiko. AHQ look like a team that, truthfully, doesn’t have a real edge in any position over their (confirmed) group opponents. While that doesn’t mean they can’t win, their lack of clear, concise team play doesn’t assure a “team play > mechanics” style of winning either. It’s hard to see the team making a real dent in the gargantuan teams of SKT or EDG here, but we’ve seen before that the LMS region can pull some real dark horse prowess on opponents who may not give them the credit they are due.

 

The X factor: Chawy/Westdoor and Ziv

Ziv is one of the old faces of the LMS, and it’ll be on his shoulders to try and create an advantage for his team to work off of. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Group A is a group of strong mid laners, and that’s something that cannot be said for AHQ. The rotating mid lane of Westdoor, who has the weaker mechanics but better jungle synergy, and Chawy, the newer, stronger, but less synergized mid laner, is the biggest hurdle for AHQ. They need to make the proper decision, either trusting Mountain and Westdoor’s ability to work together, or Chawy’s individual prowess, when facing up against some of the strongest mids at Worlds. 

Ziv is the rare situation in the group up until now: he’s a steady top laner for a team. Another long term member of the club, his performance has not be the most impressive, and it’s questionable on whether he would even be able to match up well into either Mouse or Huni/Untara. But if he can, if he can become the strong point of AHQ, he’s in the group of his life to upset. While the mid lane is looking to be a fiery display of strong skill, the top lane is almost unanimously questionable on each roster. A strong showing from the top lane could be just the trick that AHQ needs to be memorable additions to Group A. Without it, there isn’t much in the way of hope for any particular position on the AHQ roster to have any clear advantage against their confirmed rivals of EDG and SKT. 

 

Overall story lines to follow

The big story line here is the mid lane, with Scout facing up against his old organization SKT, and Faker, looking across the rift to a player he once helped improve. Scout has improved considerably with EDG, and while a kind of High Ceiling Low Floor (i.e. can either do really well or really… not… well,) may be enough in a Bo1 series against SKT, it’ll still be questionable on whether he can truly make a god bleed. Faker, on the other hand, looks to reassert SKT’s position to the World, coming in with a lot of questions hanging over their head. If SKT can make quick work of a team like EDG and look comfortable doing so, they’ll remind everyone of why they are still one of the favorites to reclaim their title. If they struggle, if EDG instead are the ones standing atop the battle in the mid lane, SKT’s position in Worlds will be called further into question. And for EDG, the curse of performing not as hot in international tournaments can be fully put to rest. 

AHQ, on the other hand, are on the outside looking in for the group. They’re not really slated to do overly well, and it’s questionable if they can even make a dent against the two teams already pulled, let alone a possible third seed team. Their relevancy at the world stage will be tested, and while not even a gambling person would have them out to make it out of groups, taking a few wins will be imperative to give some sense of dignity going home for the team.

Overall comments

I know it sounds kind of lame, but I have to agree with the analysts on the group from the group draw. This is definitely EDG and SKT’s group to lose. What order that’ll be depends on which team can shore up their leaky top side, or which team can make enough plays around the mid to bottom half to make up for it. That’ll decide who takes the first seed, and while many would be safe in saying SKT has that all but locked up, I’d caution against counting EDG out of that contest.

However, AHQ are a team that many still feel shouldn’t even necessarily be here. The LMS region, while still upset-able, are not necessarily that strong of a region in recent times. EDG historically face up well against AHQ, and SKT, not facing Flash Wolves, should be able to dismantle the LMS representatives fairly easily.

The third spot, as discussed by Jatt, has the potential (note: this is highly speculative so keep that in mind) to have either Fnatic or Cloud 9 in it. While both teams, particularly Cloud 9, seem slightly more assured in the top lane, it’s hard to hold the rest of the roster as showing much potential to upset for a second place slot. They can each bring damage to the records of both, and honestly could be the decider for the top seed teams, but their shots to make it out of groups are thoroughly suspicious. It’s just hard to imagine the two titans in EDG and SKT falling victim to a third place team from the West. But crazier things have happened. 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Misfits' roster may change in the off-season

Misfits: Europe’s newest international contenders

The EU LCS will be sending a new team to the League of Legends World Championship this year. Misfits are automatically qualified, since they made it into the EU LCS playoff finals. If they win the whole thing, Misfits would be Europe’s first seed team. If they lose the series to G2, then they would be second seed.

Misfits would finish the year with 120 championship points. Fnatic could tie that total by winning the third place match, but, as stated in Riot’s EU LCS rules, “In the event that multiple teams are tied in the standings at the conclusion of the Summer Split, then the team that gained the most points in the Summer Split will be considered the holder of the tiebreaker.”

Misfits’ qualification may come as a surprise to some, as they only managed to finish third in Group A in the Summer Split. However, they have blazed through the quarterfinals and semifinals. Misfits took down Group B’s second seed, Unicorns of Love, 3-0. They also upset Group A’s first seed, Fnatic, 3-1. This squad has certainly been turning heads, and G2 will be their last opponent for the Summer Split.

SPRING SPLIT RECAP

PowerOfEvil is Misfits' mid laner

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits came into the Summer Split with 30 championship points, since they finished fourth place in the spring playoffs. During the regular season, Misfits had solidified themselves as second seed of Group A, between G2 and Fnatic. This finish caused Misfits to play Group B’s Splyce in the quarterfinals, who they beat 3-2. Unicorns of Love booted Misfits in semifinals by winning 3-1. Finally, Fnatic skunked Misfits 3-0 in the third place match, forcing them to finish fourth and to earn 30 championship points.

During the spring regular season, Misfits’ losses came at the hands of G2, H2K, Fnatic, and Roccat. Misfits lost both of their series to a G2 that only gave up one loss that split. They also lost their one cross-group match-up to H2K. Fnatic and Roccat were both teams in Group A that traded wins and losses with Misfits.

On the other hand, Misfits won both of their series against fellow Group A team, Giants. They also took down all of the other Group B teams: Unicorns of Love, Vitality, Splyce, and Origen. That is why it was a bit of surprise when Splyce took Misfits to five games in the quarterfinals, and Unicorns of Love beat them outright in four games. Fnatic had really come into their element in the playoffs, so few were as surprised with their victory over Misfits.

CHANGES IN THE MID-SEASON

Maxlore replaced KaKAO in the mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

These shortcomings in spring playoffs must have been part of the reasoning behind the Misfits’ mid-season roster change. They added Nubar “Maxlore” Safarian as their starting jungler, dropping Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon. There was an official announcement from Misfits’ website, which cited “despite his fantastic individual performance, KaKAO had trouble contributing to communication.”

Throughout the regular season of the Summer Split, this change had not shown to be as impactful as anticipated. It was unclear whether or not Maxlore was a clear upgrade from KaKAO. Maxlore finished Spring Split with a lower KDA, an even damage share, lower XP difference at 15 minutes and a lower first blood rate than KaKAO. To be fair, Maxlore was playing jungler on a highly inconsistent Roccat squad, and he did show moments of brilliance. Also, if communication in and out of the game were of primary concern, then it is difficult as an outsider to judge how much that improved after the switch.

However, Misfits are feeling Maxlore’s impact in the playoffs this summer. Comparing his regular season statistics and performance with those of playoffs shows major improvement. His KDA is 160 percent higher (3.7 to 9.6), his warding has shot up from .82 wards per minute to .97. And he has flipped from starting 107 XP behind at 15 minutes to being 194 ahead. Finally, Misfits’ gameplay around Baron has felt much more calm and calculated during playoffs. This shift cannot be fully contributed to Maxlore, but his presence in playoffs has allowed Misfits’ Baron control to rise from 53 percent (2017 Spring playoffs) to 58 percent (2017 Summer regular season) to 78.6 percent (2017 Summer playoffs).

CHALLENGER SERIES TO WORLDS QUALIFIERS

Hans sama is Misfits' AD carry

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

All in all, Misfits’ 2017 season will culminate in their joining the short list of European teams participating in the World Championship. They will be the 15th team to represent Europe at the event. This is an amazing honor.

Some may not remember that this is Misfits’ inaugural year in the EU LCS. Misfits follow in the path of other European teams that have qualified for Worlds within their first year of joining from the Challenger series. Last year, Splyce and G2 both qualified for Worlds, and they had just been promoted into the LCS that spring. Origen qualified for the 2015 World Championship by winning Europe’s regional gauntlet, despite that summer being their first LCS split.

While Origen has since been relegated from the LCS, G2 and Splyce have maintained a strong presence. G2 continues to stay at the top of the tables and Splyce has remained a playoff contender in Spring and Summer Splits. Hopefully, Misfits will join their ranks to remain a consistent top European team. They will be looking to prove themselves in the EU LCS finals against G2. Then Misfits will travel to China to further build their legacy.


 

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Trending in EU LCS: Week nine

Consistency remained in the EU LCS from week eight into week nine. Many of the draft priorities stayed at the top. Gnar, Cho’Gath, Rumble and Camille were major picks for the top lane. Junglers included Zac, Elise, Maokai, Jarvan IV and Gragas. Zoning mages, such as Taliyah, Syndra and Orianna dominate the mid lane when Leblanc is banned. Bottom lane duos continue to ban Caitlyn and Kalista, while locking in supports who possess heavy engage.

The teams more-or-less performed as expected. All but one series ended in a 2-0 victory for the team higher in the standings. Ninjas in Pyjamas secured another game win. Game one between Unicorns of Love and Splyce had a gold swing over ten thousand. Roccat blew a 3,000 gold lead against Fnatic. Otherwise, the better teams took their leads and closed out the games.

Like every week, though, there are some elements of the game that are shifting. Trending in the EU LCS is back with your weekly dose of Europe’s ups and downs on the Rift.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week eight of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put the team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

Xayah is trending up in EU LCS week nine

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Xayah

Caitlyn and Kalista have become pick or ban in Europe. Out of week nine’s thirteen games, these two marksmen were picked or banned in every single one. When they were both off the table, Xayah actually rose to priority. The Rebel was drafted in nine out of thirteen matches (69.2 percent), and she was banned in just one (7.7 percent). This 76.9 percent presence is even with Tristana’s, who was picked or banned in ten games.

Xayah has maintained an overall 50 percent presence in the EU LCS this Summer Split. Her ultimate, Featherstorm, is valuable in a tank-centric meta, due to her temporary invulnerability. In most cases, she is paired with a Rakan support. The tandem-released champions augment each other’s abilities, which makes them an attractive pair in the draft. In week nine, Xayah and Rakan were drafted together five times. However, EU LCS supports also chose Trundle once, Morgana twice and Thresh once with a Xayah AD carry.

Kayn is trending up in EU LCS in week nine

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Kayn

While the jungle has been dominated by tanks on patch 7.15, Kayn entered the mix more in week nine. Pridestalker had picked up The Shadow Reaper immediately after he was unlocked in competitive play. Caps tried him out in the mid lane in week eight. Kayn’s popularity continues to grow, as he was picked three times as a jungler, and banned three times last week. His presence in six out of thirteen matches equates to 46.2 percent.

Xerxe picked up a win against Splyce, while Shook went 1-1 against Misfits. Altogether, this brings Kayn’s jungle win rate to 50 percent in the EU LCS. His flexibility to choose between assassin and bruiser forms brings a level of unpredictability to the game. He can be feast or famine, though, demonstrated by an average game time of 29:32 when Kayn is in the jungle (compared to the league average of 34:10).

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week eight of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

Splyce is trending down in EU LCS in week nine

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce

Week nine’s 0-2 loss brings Splyce’s game record to 14-13. Of their 14 wins, only two were secured against teams above them in the standings (Unicorns of Love in week three). Game one against UOL went pretty well against last week, until Xerxe stole the Baron. Splyce had accrued up to 3,000 gold over the Unicorns by 17 minutes, but could not recover from the lost Baron.

Game two was a much more convincing loss. The team composition seemed straight-forward. Sejuani should provide the initial engage, along with a Braum ultimate, if needed. Cho’Gath layers his crowd control and nukes down a primary carry. Azir and Tristana output the damage from the back-line. However, when looking at UOL’s composition, there is not an ideal target to engage upon. Nidalee and Leblanc have dashes. Maokai and Trundle are too tanky to be popped. Xayah is briefly invulnerable with Featherstorm. The Unicorns closed it out in 34 minutes, and the kill score was only 7-2.

While they did decisively beat Mysterious Monkeys 2-0 in their series earlier in the weekend, Splyce should not be satisfied. Misfits has won three games against teams ranked above them. As of week nine, Roccat has won five games against the top four EU LCS teams. Of course, Splyce won their series against Misfits and Roccat this split. But, as far as their performance against Fnatic, G2, UOL and H2K, Splyce is on par with these teams. If Splyce want to qualify for Worlds, it will require them to play up to other top teams, particularly their Group B counterparts, UOL and H2K.

Misfits is trending down in EU LCS in week nine

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits

Misfits fans are let down again, as they finish week nine with a 2-3 game score. They hardly put up a fight against a revitalized G2, then they dropped a game to Ninjas in Pyjamas later in the weekend. Misfits is put in a similar position to Splyce, as their game score this split is 14-16; they are solidly third place in their group, and only three of their game wins are off of the top four teams. With Fnatic being much more dominant in Group A this split, Misfits have slumped compared to their inauguration last spring.

As mentioned last week, Misfits’ problem is their mid-late game. Roccat have surpassed them in OraclesElixir.com’s mid-late game rating. They tend to lose leads off of poor decision-making while Baron is on the board. Only Ninjas in Pyjamas has a more dramatic falloff between comparing early game ratings and mid-late game ratings. This is particularly troubling when taking into account that UOL, Fnatic, H2K and G2 do best in the mid-late stages of the game. Just like Splyce, Misfits need to play up to the level of the top four teams if they want a shot at qualifying for Worlds.

Braum is trending down in EU LCS in week nine

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Braum

It has been a little under the radar, but Braum has been picked much less frequently so far this patch. In patch 7.14, Braum had an 84 percent pick-ban rate. So far, Braum has only seen five picks and four bans, equal to 50 percent draft presence. His priority is below Thresh, Rakan and Alistar. Most teams are prioritizing jungle, AD carry and mid lane bans, so many support players are able to take the high priorities. The flexibility of building Ancient Coin is not as attractive on this champion, which may be one of the reasons he has fallen in priority. It is fully possible that this champion will bounce back into higher priority, but week nine was a low point for him.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

Misfits are trending down in week eight of EU LCS

Trending in the EU LCS: Week eight

The EU LCS stayed fairly consistent from week seven into week eight. Many of the match-ups went as expected. Most of the priority picks stayed the same. The overall meta carried over into this week. However, just like every week, there are some elements of the EU LCS that stand out. 

Trending in the EU LCS is back with your weekly dose of Europe’s ups and downs on the Rift.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week eight of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put the team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

H2K

Odoamne demonstrated the power of Rumble top. His performance shows why Rumble is always making his way into the meta. In game one against Splyce, Odoamne dealt 15.5 thousand damage to champions, almost as much as Wunder’s Camille, Trashy’s Jarvan IV and Kobbe’s Kalista combined (27 minute game time). Odoamne came back with Rumble in game two, and he matched the combined damage of Wunder’s Kled and Sencux’s Galio with 40 thousand (41 minute game time).

Week eight was a strong showing for H2K, especially against a fellow Group B competitor hoping to make Worlds. Few probably notice that H2K currently holds a 16-6 game record, the second fewest game losses in the EU LCS. While Chei has the highest kill participation (76.4 percent) of all bottom lane players, Nuclear sacrifices a large share of H2K’s deaths, relative to other AD carries (19.5 percent). This is an area of improvement for H2K to reach the next level going into playoffs.

H2K are trending up after EU LCS week eight

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Trundle support

When tanks are in the meta, Trundle resurfaces. This champion plays well into heavy tanks due to his ultimate, Subjugate. It drains 40 percent of a target’s armor and magic resistance, then applies it to Trundle. The temporary theft of these stats allow Trundle’s team to melt down a tank, if they execute properly around the ability timing. It allows a low economy support Trundle to gain larger amounts of resistances, turning the tables temporarily.

Trundle was drafted as a support in three out of week eight’s 13 games, and he was banned once by Fnatic. Altogether, the Troll King was present in 30.8 percent of the drafts. As long as Sejuani, Gragas, Cho’Gath, Zac, Maokai and Shen remain attractive, expect Trundle to be on the table.

Alistar support

In a similar vein, the Minotaur of League of Legends has risen in priority for support players. Alistar finished week eight with six picks and three bans, good for 69.2 percent overall presence. On 7.14, Alistar maintained a 60 percent win rate, claiming victory in six of ten games.

Alistar excels at area-of-effect crowd control. His Headbutt-Pulverize combo has engaged team fights in the EU LCS since the champion’s inception. Since his mini-rework, Alistar’s Trample also adds a stun to his kit. His ultimate, Unbreakable Will, heavily reduces how much damage he takes. Put all of these pieces together, and it is obvious why Alistar pairs so well with Kalista, Ashe and Jhin. Like Trundle, Alistar provides a composition with an economic tank that can swing fights heavily when all of his abilities are available.

EU LCS mascots are trending up after week eight

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

EU LCS Mascots

Alongside the Unicorns of Love-Mysterious Monkeys week eight match-up on the Rift, there was a mascot war on-stage. Of course, Romain Bigeard presented his infamous unicorn earflap beanie and UOL staff. But, this week, there was a newer, redder face on the scene. Mysterious Monkeys unveiled their mascot, one with a gorilla suit, the MM logo as a mask and a torch-like scepter. Add in G2’s samurai, played by Lothar, and that brings the EU LCS’ mascot count up from two to three (a 50 percent increase).

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week eight of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

Roccat is trending down in week eight of EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Roccat

Roccat continue to make their case for most inconsistent team in the EU LCS. Each week, fans never know whether they are going to get the Fnatic and UOL-beating Roccat, or the losing Roccat. Week eight was the losers. They lost 2-0 to Ninjas in Pyjamas, gifting them their first series win of Summer Split. Roccat was an auto-attack away from winning game one. However, NIP cleanly won game two in 32 minutes. Roccat was only able to secure seven kills to NIP’s 23. This has been an up and down split for the Roccat team, and week eight basically killed any dreams of them making playoffs.

Misfits

Another Group A team that has been struggling, Misfits lost 2-0 in their week eight series versus Fnatic. While this loss is not necessarily surprising, it is not ideal. Misfits had lost eight of their last ten games going into week nine (and continued to lose two more yesterday). This record leaves them with win rates closer to Roccat and Vitality than Splyce, let alone G2 or Unicorns of Love.

The squad had seemed a lot more competitive earlier in the Summer Split, but lately they have been deflated. According to OraclesElixir.com, Misfits’ early game is fourth in the league, but their mid-late game rating is tied with Roccat for seventh. Though they hold 30 championship points from Spring Split, Misfits’ chances of doing well in playoffs, or going to Worlds, are not looking the greatest.

SPY Trashy is trending down after week eight of EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

SPY Trashy

Splyce, as a whole, looks like a playoff team. They may not be the best, or the second best, in the EU LCS, but they generally feel competitive against any team in the league. All of Splyce’s carries average a lead in CS in lane, and they are towards the top of the league in KDA, damage per minute and other metrics.

However, Trashy averages behind in CS, XP and gold at 10 minutes. He has the lowest kill participation of all junglers with more than three games played (67 percent). Trashy has the third lowest First Blood rate (24 percent), the second lowest damage per minute (222) and the lowest damage share (11.4 percent) among junglers. This lack of pressure is a huge factor in why Splyce have lost 2-0 in both of their series against H2K this split.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.comOraclesElixir.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Prediction: Fnatic, G2 and H2K will represent the EU LCS at Worlds

While four weeks of Summer Split, playoffs and the regional gauntlet remain for the EU LCS, Worlds is just around the corner. The window for qualifying is quickly closing, and every match counts. The teams have four to six series left to prove themselves and solidify their spot in the World Championships to represent Europe.

Keeping that in mind, I believe Fnatic (FNC), G2 and H2K will be the qualifying teams. Below, I outline the various different circumstances of these three teams. There are spectrums of results that these squads can fall into. There is enough parity within the league that any of these teams could miss out on Worlds, but they can also win the split and be Europe’s top seed. Here are the ways in which FNC, G2 and H2K can finish out their split.

fnatic

How they miss Worlds: Let’s say Fnatic loses its upcoming series against Unicorns of Love (UOL), Misfits (MSF) and G2. They would end the split with a 9-4 record. MSF or G2 would need to win five out of six of their remaining games to overtake FNC for first place in Group A. Therefore, they are most likely going to end first in their group.

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

First place gives FNC a first round bye in playoffs. If they lose in the semifinals, FNC would end the split in third or fourth place. Third gives them 70 championship points; fourth gives 40 points. Since they finished Spring Split with 50 points, FNC’s total championship points would come to 120 or 90.

If playoffs played out in this way, then G2 and UOL would both most likely finish with more championship points, pushing FNC into the regional qualifiers. If we are assuming MSF beat FNC in week eight, then they may very well beat them in the gauntlet to qualify. This would be FNC’s lowest probable outcome, in my opinion.

Realistic expectations: FNC should reasonably win three of their last five series. Their record would end at 10-3, meaning MSF or G2 would need to win all of their remaining series (including those against FNC) to overtake first place in Group A.

Again, first place gives FNC a first round bye in playoffs. Realistically, FNC will end up playing against UOL or H2K in the semifinals. They can beat either of those opponents to make it into the finals and auto-qualify via first place in Summer Split or highest total championship points.

H2K or UOL winning playoffs to auto-qualify would be the only possibilities that would rule out these qualifications. FNC would then be competing with G2 and UOL for highest championship points. For example, if UOL finishes first, FNC second and G2 third, then G2 would total 160 points. FNC would have 140, forced into the gauntlet. If G2 instead finishes fourth, then they would total 130 points.

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Finally, if the playoff standings end with H2K-FNC-UOL-G2 in first through fourth, then FNC and UOL will tie with 140 total championship points. According to lolesports.com, FNC would qualify for Worlds, because they accrued more points in the Summer Split.

Best case scenario: FNC can realistically win the entire Summer Split. They currently sit at 7-1, and it is likely they will finish first in Group A. Therefore, they are likely to have a bye in the first round of playoffs. H2K or UOL are FNC’s most likely semi-finals opponent. FNC could definitely beat them to qualify for the finals.

Once there, FNC will most likely face H2K, UOL or G2. Again, they can conceivably beat any of these opponents in a best-of-five series to win the Summer Split and auto-qualify for Worlds as Europe’s first seed.

G2

How they miss Worlds: G2 are second in Group A with a 5-3 record. They have five series left to solidify their spot in the standings. Assuming G2 beats all teams below them and loses to FNC and MSF, they would end the regular season with an 8-5 record. This may put them at third in their group.

G2 may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

They would likely face UOL or H2K in the quarterfinals. Either of those teams could eliminate G2 from playoffs immediately. They would finish in fifth-sixth, gaining only 20 championship points. G2’s total would be 110 points. If UOL finishes second, third or fourth, FNC finishes second or third, or MSF finishes second, then G2 would be forced into the regional qualifiers.

Within the gauntlet, G2 would most likely auto-qualify for the semifinals or finals. They could reasonably win into Worlds, but they could also fall flat. It would be hard to imagine the 2017 World Championships without G2 in attendance, but that is not out of the realm of possibility.

Realistic expectations: Suppose G2 beats Vitality (VIT), Ninjas in Pyjamas, MSF and Roccat (ROC) in their last four weeks of the Summer Split. G2 would finish the split with a 9-4 record, second in Group A. This could completely change their likelihood for qualifying into Worlds. Splyce (SPY) would be the most likely opponent from Group B.

If G2 were to win that quarterfinals match, then they would automatically finish in the top four in the EU LCS. Fourth place would give G2 130 championship points. UOL would have to get second or third, or FNC would need to get second, to push G2 into the gauntlet. Under those circumstances, G2 would most likely bye into the finals of the Regional Qualifiers, putting them one best-of-five away from Worlds.

G2 may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

If G2 finish in third, that would put them at 160 points. UOL would have to get second place to knock G2 into the gauntlet. Any other circumstance would allow G2 to qualify for Worlds as Europe’s second seed.

Best case scenario: Most EU LCS fans know that G2 are completely capable of making it into the playoff finals. Even if they lose, G2 would finish the year with 180 championship points. It would be impossible for another team to surpass.

It is not inconceivable for G2 to win the entire Summer Split. They have won three splits in a row, and performed highly at Mid-Season Invitational. G2 would love to go to Worlds as Europe’s top seed to set themselves up for international success.

H2K

How they miss Worlds: H2K do not have an easy road to Worlds this year. Spring Split really set them back compared to other top teams. They currently sit towards the top of Group B with a 6-3 record. They are battling UOL for the first place spot. SPY is two wins behind H2K with four weeks to go.

H2K may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

If H2K drops series to SPY and UOL, and SPY is able to overtake them for second place in Group B, then H2K will most likely face G2 or MSF in the quarterfinals. MSF will be a decent match-up, but losing to G2 would mean ending fifth-sixth again. H2K would finish the year with 30 championship points and be forced into the gauntlet, where they would likely lose.

Even if H2K makes it into semifinals from quarterfinals, they would have to then face FNC or G2. Either of these teams could knock H2K into the third place match. If H2K finish fourth, they would have accumulated 50 total points, and most likely need several Regional Qualifier wins to get to Worlds. If they finish third, they would have 80 points, and still most likely need to win two series for Worlds.

At H2K’s lowest, they will not make Worlds. Their Spring Split playoffs performance has set them back so far that every single series win could be the difference for them to qualify. Losses now mean a lower playoff seed. Losing early in playoffs means a longer gauntlet run. A loss in the gauntlet means another team is representing Europe at Worlds.

Realistic expectations: H2K is fully capable of beating every single opponent in the league. It is just a matter of which team is playing well that day. They can beat UOL. SPY, VIT and Mysterious Monkeys should be easier wins. UOL faltering against ROC this week proves that H2K can finish first in Group B.

A first round bye for playoffs would be a boon for H2K. It would solidify a top four finish in the Summer Split, essentially guaranteeing they are included in the Regional Qualifiers. If they finish third in playoffs, then H2K most likely has to beat SPY or MSF and face UOL to qualify for Worlds. In this hypothetical, H2K finished at the top of their group by beating UOL, so they could then beat them in the gauntlet and qualify as Europe’s third seed team.

H2K may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Best case scenario: At H2K’s peak, they win the whole Summer Split. FNC, G2 and UOL had troubles at Rift Rivals, but it is not necessarily going to be easy. H2K could finish the split in first place for Group B. They could go on to beat MSF or G2 in the semifinals, then win the finals against UOL or FNC.

This is H2K’s best scenario. Of course, winning Summer Split is everyone’s best scenario, but this is especially true of H2K when compared to FNC, G2 and UOL. Points-wise, those three teams are contenders for Europe’s second seed if they don’t win playoffs. Because of H2K’s fifth-sixth finish in the Spring Split, they do not have this luxury. If H2K finish first in Group B, then they only need to win two best-of-five series to go to Worlds. If they do not finish first in their group, then H2K will have to win four to six series to qualify.

Prediction

My actual predictions are a hodge podge of the hypotheticals described above. I expect Group A will see FNC in first, G2 in second and MSF third. Group B will have H2K finish first, UOL second and SPY third. FNC and H2K will go into playoffs with a bye.

In that scenario, UOL would face MSF in the quarterfinals. G2 would match with SPY. Both of the second place teams would win those best-of-fives. UOL will go on to face FNC, while G2 goes up against H2K.

The “Kings of Europe” really should reign supreme at this point. FNC and G2 have impressive histories of winning European best-of-fives. UOL and H2K, on the other hand, have faltered on many occasions when it truly mattered. FNC and G2 should meet in the finals.

It may end up being a close series, but it is hard to bet against G2 at this point in the EU LCS. Sure, they looked rough at Rift Rivals against the NA LCS teams, but this is not Rift Rivals. This is the EU LCS. G2 has won the last three splits in a row, and they seem to always do better in longer series. I expect them to take Europe’s first seed spot for Worlds this year.

FNC would finish the year with 140 championship points, taking Europe’s second seed qualifier. UOL would have 110, H2K would have 80, MSF would have 50 and SPY would have 30. It is hard to imagine this gauntlet final facing off anyone besides H2K and UOL. These Group B rivals will be exciting to watch. Following their week 10 match-up, I expect H2K to follow through and qualify as Europe’s third seed to Worlds.

Regardless of what happens over the last few weeks of the EU LCS, it is going to be riveting. The standings are much closer than many expected coming into the split. The parity within Groups A and B is shaping up to come down to the wire. Series losses now can have Worlds-qualifying consequences. Every match counts.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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